Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
Stamford Bridge/May 9, 2018
Anything short of a comfortable victory against the Terriers will render the hard work put in against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool useless. With the victory over Liverpool on Sunday and Spurs losing to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday giving us an outside chance of qualifying for the Champions’ League next season with just two points separating us from fourth and a victory over Huddersfield Town on Wednesday night would bring us level on points with Liverpool going into the last round of fixtures on Sunday. David Wagner’s Terriers are not mathematically save from relegation yet and the American will be keeping a close eye on events at the Liberty Stadium tonight when Swansea take on Southampton and will be hoping for a draw between the two as a win for either side would drag Huddersfield back into relegation deep waters with just three points separating the Terriers from both Southampton and the Swans but with an inferior goal difference to both those teams. Going by how David Wagner set his team up at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, this is not going to be a walk in the park for Chelsea tomorrow night.
Past results between Chelsea and Huddersfield Town is closer than the gulf in class between the two teams would suggest. Wednesday night will be the 66th meeting between Chelsea and the Terriers with the Blues currently leading the head to head with 29wins, 9draws and 27losses. The last time a Chelsea team lost to Huddersfield Town was a 1-0 loss in the League Cup back on 13th October 1999. That loss also represents the last time a Chelsea failed to score against Huddersfield in ten matches (W7 D2). Huddersfield Town has won just two of their last ten league outings against Chelsea (L5 D3) and they currently on a seven-match winless run against the Blues – not a record David Wagner will like to be taking to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night. The Terriers has scored at least one goal in their last five visits to Stamford Bridge losing four with the exception being the League Cup victory in October 1999. Chelsea are on a five-match winning streak since their 1-1 draw against West Ham while Huddersfield have won just two of their last ten matches in the Premier League (L6 D2) and that’s not the sort of form you want to be taking to a place like Stamford Bridge but Huddersfield showed with their performance at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday that they have the ability to grind out results when the need arises so Antonio Conte and his team had better be prepared for such tactics.
Marcos Alonso walked straight back into the Chelsea team against Liverpool on Sunday after serving out his three-match suspension and I expect him to continue in that role against the Terriers tomorrow night barring any last minute changes or tactical tweak from the manager. Even though Antonio Conte hinted that there may be some rotation in the squad for the visit of Huddersfield Town to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday during his post-match press conference after the Liverpool match on Sunday evening, I expect Conte to keep the majority of those that started the match on Sunday. Gary Cahill has started and completed every match since the 1-1 draw against West Ham United in early April so I expect him to be one the few to make way on Wednesday with Andreas Christensen, who hasn’t played since starting that draw against the Hammers, his likely replacement. I expect Antonio Conte to switch back to the 3-4-3 formation against Huddersfield on Wednesday as we cannot afford to start the match as conservatively as we did against Liverpool on Sunday because anything short of a win will do on Wednesday. Alvaro Morata should be back into the team for Wednesday night’s match having missed the weekend match with a back complaint but I still expect a front three of Hazard, Giroud and Willian to start as the Frenchman’s physique was a thorn in the Liverpool defence on Sunday. Tiemoue Bakayoko had an improved performance against Liverpool but I expect him to be the one to lose his place in our midfield three to accommodate the inclusion of a second winger because Cesc Fabregas remains our best passer of the ball especially from a deep position. Victor Moses has also improved his offensive output and has been responsible for three goals (2goals 1assist) in his last four matches while not lacking in his defensive duties so I expect him to keep his place on Wednesday night. Thibaut Courtois had one of his better performances in recent times against Liverpool and is a shoe in to start again on Wednesday night especially if Willy Caballero will continue his cup run against Manchester United at Wembley later this month.
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Hazard, Giroud, Willian.
Last Five Matches: WWWWW
Injuries: David Luiz (Knee/Fitness) – Out; Ethan Ampadu (Ankle) – Out.
David Wagner moved away from his trusted 4-2-3-1 formation at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday opting instead to play a five-man defence so as to deny City’s creative players the space they need to express themselves and the formation worked wonders for him as they left Manchester with a share of the spoils against all odds and I expect the American to use the same tactics when he brings his team to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday as they are playing for their Premier League survival with Southampton’s win at the Liberty Stadium tonight dropping them a place to 17th position just three points off the relegation places and they will need a draw from their last two matches against Chelsea and Arsenal. David Wagner will most likely keep the same 11 players that worked so hard against Manchester City on Sunday with the back five of Tom Smith, Mathias Jorgensen, Christopher Schindler, Terence Kongolo and Chris Lowe protecting Jonas Lossl’s goal. The trio of Florent Hadergjonaj, Jonas Hogg and Aaron Mooy occupied the midfield while Alex Pritchard provides support for Steve Mounie in attack. Tom Ince is a different option to Alex Pritchard in attack if he’s able to overcome his hamstring injury in time before kick-off. Both Chris Lowe and Terence Kongolo will have late fitness tests to determine their availability but I expect them to be passed fit to take to the pitch at Stamford Bridge tomorrow night. The more physical and speedy Colin Quaner is also an option available to Wagner should he decide against starting with Steve Mounie in attack and so is Laurent Depoitre, who scored their consolation at the John Smith’s Stadium earlier in the seasons. Paul Billing is also an option for the three spots in central midfield should Wagner decides to call on him. One thing I’m sure of is whoever makes the starting XI for the Terriers against Chelsea will need no extra motivation as they’re now playing for their Premier League lives.
Lossl; Smith, Jorgensen, Schindler, Kongolo, Lowe; Billing, Hogg, Mooy; Pritchard, Mounie.
Last 5 matches: DLWDL
Injuries: Chris Lowe (Cramp) – Doubt; Elias Kachunga (Ankle) – Out; Micheal Hefele (Knee) – Out; Daniel Williams (Broken Ankle) – Out; Terence Kongolo (Knock) – Doubt; Tom Ince (Hamstring) – Doubt.
Olivier Giroud vs. Christopher Schindler
This is likely going to be one of the standout battles on Wednesday night as the German defender is as tough as they come in the Premier League and I believe he’ll leave no stone unturned against an in-form Olivier Giroud but I trust the Frenchman to hold his own on Wednesday night. Surely Christopher Schindler will have a few bruises at the end to show for his duel with Olivier Giroud I’m sure.
N’Golo Kante vs. Aaron Mooy
Not that Huddersfield created much against City at the weekend but Aaron Mooy is their creator-in-chief and N’Golo Kante will do well to pay very close attention to the Australian playmaker because he has the intelligence to pick a pass from anywhere on the pitch but I’m sure Kante won’t be fazed by the prospect of testing himself against Mooy tomorrow night.
Eden Hazard vs. Tom Smith
Eden Hazard has been almost unplayable in his last three matches for Chelsea and I doubt Tom Smith will relish the prospect of testing himself against the Belgian in his current form but that’s exactly what he’ll be doing on Wednesday night and I’m sure he’s going to be a busy man even with a packed defence in his support..
This is surely going to be a fight to the finish with both these teams needing the points on offer for different reasons. While Chelsea are looking to usurp the position of one of Tottenham Hotspurs or Liverpool and qualify for next season’s Champions’ League David Wagner’s team need at least a point from their last two matches to be sure of safety with just three points separating them from 18th-placed Swansea City going into their last two matches of the season. I know Stamford Bridge will be rocking for the last home match of the season but more importantly I hope at the end of the day we can celebrate a positive result going into the last round of matches on Sunday. A win for Chelsea tomorrow night and against Newcastle on Sunday coupled with Liverpool Newcastle United and Leicester City. It’s surely an intriguing finish to the season for the trio of Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool starting tomorrow night. I hope we’re celebrating on Sunday on the back of a dramatic end to the season for us but if the worst happens then we’ll be flying the blue flag in the Europa League next season. Keep The Blue Flag Flying High and keep hope alive until the end. Ciao!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Chelsea FC
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